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NSF in the News

December 1997


NSF-funded research, conducted by biochemist Phillip Klebba and his colleagues at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, has revealed that living cells are even more proactive than many scientists previously believed. "The question of how nutrients and vitamins enter living cells has been answered by these experiments," states Marcia Steinberg, NSF's Director of Biomolecular Structure.

Up to this point, scientists inferred that the protein in living membranes formed pores, which allowed nutrients into the cells. The new research indicates that, rather than passively allowing entry, membrane proteins actually behave like gatekeepers, opening cell "doors" to allow entry of those vitamins and nutrients that the cell needs, and denying it to those it does not.

Once the cell has acquired what it needs to grow, the entrance portals shut, opening again when another vital substance is identified. These portals also prevent the entry of unnecessary or harmful compounds.

In addition, Klebba's research has resulted in a new methodology, identified as "electron spin resonance spectroscopy," which gives researchers the ability to observe these transport events while they are happening.


Frontiers is on the right track but has some room for improvement. This was the overall conclusion of the newsletter's first readership survey, which was distributed as an insert in the February 1997 issue.

Most of the respondents (79 percent), rated the newsletter's writing as good or excellent. Objectivity and timeliness also received high marks with two-thirds of the respondents ranking them 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means "poor" and 5 means "excellent." In addition, overall performance, topics covered and quality of photos were rated highly by at least half of the respondents.

Only two characteristics, depth of information in articles and usefulness as a reference, were not rated highly by more than half of the respondents. Two respondents suggested including a "for more information" section that lists Web site addresses and periodical references. We appreciate this suggestion.

The survey also revealed that most respondents read Frontiers either "to keep up-to-date on the latest research and education advances," or because "the topics covered are interesting." Other reasons listed included:

  • To learn more about science and engineering,

  • To find out about grant opportunities, and

  • To find out what is going on in NSF.

The overall response rate for the survey was 2 percent. While this rate is typical for surveys distributed in this manner, it is too small to be used for statistical analysis. However, the staff of Frontiers appreciates feedback and values the insights this survey provided.

Please keep your eyes open and pencils ready for the next survey. We look forward to hearing from you.

      Stacy L. Springer
      Editor, Frontiers

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